An unwise man once told me that there was only so much you could write about food — a statement I took immediate offence to because surely, this was a faux pas. Had he never stumbled home, drunk at three in the morning with a knackering for something... greasy, cheesy and straight up easy? Had he never, then, attempted to pen an ode to the only thing we can all unanimously agree on, at a global scale? Whether it’s a drunken pick-me-up, breakfast food, a mid-day meal, or just the perfect snack — there’s little else that could overthrow the OG comfort food — the Grilled Cheese.
The very sound of butter sizzling as it hits a hot pan, perfecting the golden-brown toast with just about the right crunch is an art. It’s taken us all years of practice (more so in college) but we can all safely say that today, we’ve all got our own rendition of the Classic Grilled Cheese. Whether you’re the kind of person who likes a bit of pepper to spice up your ‘sammie, or even a handful of caramelised onions to lift the flavours through and through, there’s a whole world out there to experiment with!
The first time I was adventurous with my grilled cheese was a time I can’t forget. A close friend convinced me of a dash of honey — a concept I couldn’t get past. One bite of this caramelised cheesy treat though, and I was sold. It’s a risk you take when you embark on a mission to deviate from the classic, but boy are those rewards sweet! That’s when it dawned on us...surely, there were others out there, with recipes guaranteed to blow our minds, much like the latter did.
Without further ado, we roped in the big guns, the ones who know their bread and butter and aren’t afraid to go beyond. All we did was give them one rule — to ‘Indian-ise’ the Grilled Cheese.
Four chefs. Four recipes. Four new flavours.
Sound gouda? (Apologies, we saw a chance and took it.) Scroll on!
I. The Classic 4 Cheese Chilly Cheese Toast | Chef Nuzha Ebrahim | The Fromagerie
Growing up in Mumbai meant knowing how to handle a messy, overly stuffed veg sandwich. Bursting with ingredients freshly cut up and stuffed between two piddly bits of white bread, globs of cheese would mask the otherwise overpowering onion and chillies, while the cucumber would nine times out of ten, slide out. Chef Nuzha’s refined take on this very street Veggie Sammie is a blessing in disguise.
- Green Capsicum
- Green Chilli
- Red Chilli Powder
- Coriander Powder
- Cheese - Emmenthal, Mozzarella, Gouda, and Goat Cheese (feel free to stick to Mozzarella and Cheddar only, too)
- Brioche (or any thickly sliced bread works)
First, finely chop up all your veggies (Nuzha emphasizes on the finely chopped bit), then toss them into a bowl. Sprinkle your spices/powders on to the veggies and thoroughly mix it in. Add the cheese to your spiced veggie mix. Scoop up your mixture onto a thick slice of bread, and close with another. Don’t forget to butter both sides for toasty, golden goodness!
II. The Grilled Goan Choriz Cheese | Chef Hussain Shahzad | O Pedro
As a Goan, I barely contained any of my excitement when I heard of this one. After growing up on Sausage Pao, it’s a wonder the idea to simply throw in some cheese and make it a sandwich never dawned on me. To be fair, South Goa’s Sausage Cheese Naan did spoil me, and thereby fed any craving I’ve had thus far. Until, of course, this beaut. Chef Hussain of O Pedro fame came at this game without skipping a beat. It’s almost like he’d had this one in his mind all along.
- 2 Poee (Available at O Pedro, or, you could stick to local Pao)
- 4 Slices Cheese (Amul/Britannia/or any easy melting cheese you prefer)
- 200 gm Goan Choriz
- 750 ml Water
- 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
Bring the water to a gentle simmer on medium heat, in a saucepan. Add in the choriz and cook for 25-30 minutes till the water dries out. Strain the choriz and discard the fat (or store it for later, to fry an egg or even in place of butter for the sandwich). Cool the choriz, undo its casing and collect all the meat. Spin the meat in a mixer to a coarse paste, to the consistency of a spread. Cool and reserve.
Assemble the sandwich by cutting the poees by half, and buttering each side. Toast the Poee on a pan, flip it over and spread the Choriz paste, topping it with the cheese. Keep your flame on low as the Poee gently toasts, while the cheese gets gooey. Place the other piece of poee on top and remove from the pan.
III. The Creamy Mutton Grilled Cheese | Rohan Mangalorkar | Pack-A-Pav
If there’s one man in Bandra who knows how to experiment with bread and beyond, it’s Rohan Mangalorkar. A Homegrown favourite, Pack-A-Pav is frequently visited by us all, for its generously stuffed pavs, each packed with flavours deviating from the norm. That’s why we weren’t surprised when Rohan happily agreed take on this challenge–it’s basically what he does everyday! Choosing to stick to his familiar base (a.k.a. Pav), he decided to take inspiration from India’s many spiced street kebabs and a local artisanal cheese supplier (The Spotted Cow Fromagerie). The results, like every other, were super delicious and easy enough to attempt at home.
- Oil to caramelize onions
- Red Garlic Sauce
- Cream Cheese
- Mutton Seekh Kebab
First, heat the oil in a pan. Once hot, toss in your onions and stir occasionally till they begin to brown. Sprinkle sugar sparingly on top, and toss it some more. Once thoroughly browned, put the onions aside and fry the Mutton Seekh Kebabs. For this recipe, since Rohan switched from Pack-A-Pav’s regular hung curd to cream cheese, he borrowed from The Spotted Cow Fromagerie’s array of cheese spreads — Plain Cream Cheese and Garlic Cream Cheese. If you’re a fan of generous helpings of cheese, go wild while mixing these two (the sweetness of the onions will cut through the masses of cheese). Coat your pav with your cheese mixture, followed by the fried kebabs. Top with the red garlic sauce, and of course, your crispy onions.
IV. Gunpowder Grilled Cheese | Chef Boo Kim | Bastian
If there’s one thing we can say for certain, it’s that the chefs at Bastian know no boundaries when it comes to creativity and food. Chef Boo Kim is no stranger to this concept, which is why when he got back to us with his recipe, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Yet, there I was, gobsmacked. From Maharashtra’s favourite spicy side Thecha to South India’s Malgapodi (Gunpowder), he’s got a little bit of spice, and everything nice in this one. Not to mention, some inspired texturing. We highly recommend it for a hangover special.
- 4 Slices Brioche Bread
- 30g Butter
- 20g Gunpowder
- 30g Thecha
- 1 Green Apple
- 40g Mozzarella Cheese
- 40g Cheddar Cheese
Butter the brioche slices on both sides and toast lightly. Spread thecha on the toasted side of one slice. Build the sandwich with cheddar cheese, apple slices, gunpowder and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle gunpowder on the inside of the other toasted slice. Grill on a non-stick pan on low heat with butter, until it gets nice and golden and the cheese has melted. (The apple may seem like a bit of a misfit, but trust us, or rather, Chef Boo. It wraps it all up perfectly, with a touch of crunch and tartness.)
All images photographed by Rashi Arora for Homegrown.
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